Thanks to my wife who brought me out for my birthday drams. I’m a very lucky guy.
The question “What’s your thoughts on Bladnoch?” comes up about as often as “How much money do you make?”, “What’s your thoughts on Taoism these days?”, and “Hey, your married friends are looking good, are they looking for a third?” and is slightly less awkward.
The thing is that it should come up more often (The Bladnoch), because the answer depends on the decade. Multiple owners passed it around between it reopening in 1957 and 1983, with the only one I can find owning it for a respectable amount of time (10 years) was Inver House.
Then Bell’s took over in 83, then that became Guinness/United Distillers and then that became Diageo, the 80s suck for whisky and like many distilleries closed in 1993 only to be sold again in 1994, mothballed in 2009/2010, then taken over again in 2015. I think David Prior and Gavin Hewitt still own it and are running it, though a new Master Distiller was hired in 2019.
With that many hand-overs just starting in the late 1950s, ignoring a time when the original stills were sent to Sweden, means it’s hard to talk about Bladnoch. New Bladnoch, Diageo Bladnoch, Inver House Bladnoch, or maybe one of the “many” owners that the websites I read didn’t even list. I’d be surprised if the new Master Distiller doesn’t change things again, so perhaps they’ll even be a split between Old New Bladnoch and New New Bladnoch.
The whole thing makes me cross eyed trying to figure it all out. So when I say I wanted to try Bladnoch 22 1977 Old Malt Cask Douglas Laing it’s because I’m trying pre-Diageo Bladnoch for the first time. Oh, and by the way, there’s three different whiskies that all have that same name, vintage, etc. from Old Malt Cask by Douglas Laing (Sr.). So I even had to verify which one of the three I was having.
That’s wild and crazy. What an amazing way to have a birthday. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: An auction probably has it, but I shudder to see the price.
Vintage: December 1977
Bottled: July 2000
Cask type: Oak
Number of bottles: 174
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: White chocolate, mango, flowers, dry leaves, mineral
Very shy nose. Yes, it’s a Lowland from the 70s that doesn’t have the name Linlithgow or St. Magdalene, what was I expecting?
Joking aside, give this some time and let it open slowly and you get vegetal, floral, and tropical notes. It does need that extra time though, and a bit of water coaxes some of the flavours out.
Taste: Yellow plum jam, lemon tart, mineral, heather, walnut oil
Tart, fruity, some well baked butter, some bitter elements, and less floral than other Lowlands for the time. If anything the floral element is coming more from the cask versus what you normally have in Lowlands where it’s more distinct.
That’s not me bashing it either: While I am and haven’t really changed from loving floral aspects in my whisky and I always make sure that I have a Lowland whenever I get the chance, I also love when a distillery does it’s own thing. This is closer to a tart version that plays with interesting types of acidity and bitterness. Flowers just weren’t needed here.
Finish: Floral, strawberry jam, honeycomb, limestone, nutmeg, plantain
Very long, and yeah, it’s floral, so I guess egg on my face? Oh no, the thing I love in whisky, whatever will I do? Keep drinking? Okay?
Mineral, honey, fruity, starchy and spice filled. This is the complexity that I was waiting on, that was only slightly hinted at in the taste.
Conclusion: So close to being an epic dram, though still a great whisky. The nose is quite shy, the taste is quite good, and the finish is what I was waiting on.
The closest I would compare this whisky to would be if someone wanted to show off the other things that make great Lowlands great, but made a bit of a mistake. Frankly the fact that this distillery was passed around like a joint at a hip hop concert in the 90s and still made something worth packaging as a single cask should come as a shock.
I’m happy to keep trying Bladnoch and trying to figure out where I’m at with the distillery. If they started making whisky like this again, perhaps I’d have an easier answer (HINT HINT).
Scotch review #1469, Lowland review #63, Whisky Network review #2172